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Derry's Thompson decides to roll the dice with Vegas NHL expansion team

By ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 18. 2017 10:33PM
Paul Thompson takes a moment during warmups while playing for the Florida Panthers last season. Thompson, a former Pinkerton Astro and UNH Wildcat, signed a one-year contract with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

It was not difficult for Paul Thompson to decide which NHL team to sign with once the league’s newest expansion team showed interest.

The forward from Derry wanted to be part of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural campaign.

“I think it’s just a good opportunity and a cool experience — being part of basically a completely new franchise,” Thompson said. “At this point in my career, it’s about judging where the opportunity is going to be best and I felt it was my best opportunity to play a good amount in the NHL next year.”

Thompson, who played at the University of New Hampshire from 2007-11, signed a one-year deal worth $650,000 with Vegas on July 1.

The Pinkerton Academy graduate has played in 24 NHL games in his time with the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.

Thompson recorded three assists over 21 games with Florida last year. The 28-year-old also registered 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) over 51 games with Springfield (AHL) last season.

Thompson said other teams expressed interest in him but he and his wife settled on Vegas shortly after the new franchise came calling.

“Pretty much once Vegas was in the picture, the opportunity I think is going to be there with a new team, that would be really hard to pass up no matter what else came up,” Thompson said.

Coming off his previous campaign, Thompson is eager to begin his eighth pro season. His time with Florida last year showed Thompson he can be an everyday NHL player.

“You always think you can but you’re not sure if the opportunity is going to come,” Thompson said. “I’ll always be thankful to get an opportunity there (in Florida) and be able to carve out a little bit of a role on that team, which is the same I hope to provide with Vegas.”

Thompson is spending this offseason trying to become a better skater, something he said everyone is working on considering how fast the game is nowadays.

When Vegas’ training camp begins, Thompson said he hopes to make an impression on the coaching staff and earn a spot on the opening night roster. Thompson feels he can provide valuable minutes and the occasional goal for the Golden Knights on the team’s third or fourth line.

“I just think that’s my kind of role if I’m going to be in the NHL, is that third or fourth checking, energy line-type role,” Thompson said.

Training camp will also provide Thompson and his teammates the opportunity to build chemistry with each other as they prepare for their first season together in Las Vegas. Thompson doesn’t think the team needs to put an emphasis on trying to make camaraderie form, however.

“It’s something that naturally occurs when everyone there has the same goal in mind,” Thompson said.

ahall@unionleader.com


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